Pride Only Hurts


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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40 Responses

  1. Avatar Kim says:

    I’ve got no patience nor time for tribalism, at least not on the disorganized level of political parties.
    Know too many negotiators to think that my vote ought to start anywhere other than undecided. If you aren’t willing to switch, if you get a better deal somewhere else, you’ll be taken for granted.

    So I hope to be voting on the same side of the (possibly tripartite) aisle as you, four years from now.

    Mike, can I strongly urge you to think about reregistering, if there’s anyone interesting running? I’m registered Democratic, just to have a sway in the primaries, which in the city are often teh only elections that matter.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    I remember 2004 keenly Mike. It sucks.

    Hopefully this election may bring some movement on the issues though. Everything pretty much hits the fan this December and the incentives to stall, delay or filibuster are inverted for pretty much all the parties involved now.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    What you describe going through now is a process I started in 2004, and completed in 2008. By the end of it, to use Will Truman’s “pronoun test,” I had come to think of the Republicans using the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘we.’ But I never stopped thinking of Democrats as ‘they’ instead of ‘we.’

    It’s good to stand on your own, to articulate your own identity. In some ways, it’s the essence of citizenship. It’ll be okay, I promise.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I have always been registered Independent/NPA (I never wanted either major party to ‘count’ on my vote, even symbolically/rhetorically as in a ‘head count’).

      There have been times that I have regretted this, due to the loss of my ability to vote in primaries.

      But reading these, makes me think I made the right choice way back when – I have never gotten too emotionally-invested in one side or another.

      Being registered to one party sounds way too much like being “married” to it, minus any benefits of marriage; and so this requires a “divorce”, if differences become irreconcilable; and divorces are always protracted, messy and painful emotionally.

      Or compare political partisanship to sports partisanship (like politics, also sublimated tribalism and abstracted war) – sports partisanship’s mostly harmless, but political partisanship has real consequences, both to the political process itself, and to the individuals who feel real emotional pain and cognitive dissonance when “their” party (which is no more “theirs” than is any multi-million-dollar sports franchise) loses or takes positions which disappoint them.

      Sorry if this comes across as patronizing or condescending to members of any party, it is really not meant to be (I have struggled with my wording to try to avoid this, but may not have succeeded). I have just never been much of a ‘joiner’, so feel free to criticize me as a heartless cold fish or whatever if that seems to fit.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Nah, you’re just an idiot. My favorite writer on dailykos is registered republican. In a strongly gerrymandered district, registering as a side is the only way to make your vote matter at all.
        (at least in my closed primary state).Report

      • Avatar Lyle says:

        The ability to vote in primaries varies from state to state in both Va and Tx one can declare a party affiliation at the polls (In tx that is when you do so), and at the next primary 2 years later change parties. I think it makes sense to move to this nationwide.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          And indeed, if the current open jungle primary regime in California endures, I too will probably change my registration to the more facially-correct “No Partisan Preference.” The way we handle our primaries seems to change every four years or so, is all, so I’m kind of waiting and seeing for largely irrational reasons at this point.Report

  4. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    Politics in America have turned into primarily tribal affairs; and it is my sense that the parties (both parties) map very poorly to people’s beliefs. I live in a pretty conservative area (Orange County, California), and yet, when I talk to people about what they actually believe–outside the signal “hot-button” issues–their views are almost invariably more nuanced, conditional, and well-reasoned than the media or the political parties allow.

    What the parties actually do manage to accomplish pretty effectively is polarization. For reasons almost completely related to partisan “sorting,” abortion has become a partisan divider, as has global warming, and environmental regulation. None of these used to be: one of the most surprising political facts I know is that the Southern Baptist Conference initially endorsed the Roe v. Wade decision when it was first issued.

    I don’t have any answers. We’re in a pretty shabby historical moment. But I appreciate the struggle you’re going through–it seems the mark of an honest and open mind.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      SBC wasn’t reliably crazypants republican back then. it was just a disorganized mess (which I rather prefer).Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I think that’s more of an effect of the national parties gaining more influence over the regional.
      Locally, things don’t always stack up the way they do at a national level.
      My former congressman (who lost last night) was an R that held leadership positions at two unions.
      The new congressman is a D that opposed two trade agreements on the basis they were “NAFTA-like.”Report

  5. Avatar Michelle says:

    Great piece, Mike. I’m still not ready to pull the plug on my decades long love-hate relationship with the Democratic Party, but I think the us v. them mentality that inflicts the current political climate is killing us. We, as a nation, have some serious long term issues we need to face down, and partisan point-scoring is counter-productive.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    (Note: “you” isn’t you. I’m just using the second person here because it writes easy.)

    At the end of the day, the most important thing is to figure out *WHY* you want to win.

    If your most important goal is something where Republicans and Democrats differ only in rhetoric, rather than in actual legislation, you get to be pleased (or disappointed) no matter which party gets elected. When your second or third most important goals differ between the two parties in a matter of degree only, rather than a difference in kind, that sort of results in being pleased (or disappointed) no matter which party gets elected as well.

    The important pitfalls that you need to avoid are the team pitfalls. You don’t want to find yourself rooting for the Raiders because you find yourself just hating, viscerally, every single Broncos fan you meet.

    Figure out what you want to have happen. If your first choice won’t happen with either guy, go to your second choice… and if you get through enough choices without enough difference on the stuff you care about, start looking at third parties.

    In the short term, though, don’t look at who won/lost. Look at what’s getting done and compare it to what you want to get done… and push for the guy who will get done what you want to get done. And, yeah, sometimes that means cheering for the guy who will be pushing for your fourth choice a little stronger than the other guy. And, sometimes, you’re lucky enough to vote for a guy who cares about your second choice a lot.

    Keep arguing online, keep discussing, keep getting your memes out there to fight with the other memes… and don’t be afraid to abandon old memes when you no longer remember why you once cared about them.

    The most important thing: fight for your principles instead of for your team. You’ll be disappointed often, but never with yourself.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Last night CNN reported that 43% of the electorate in New Hampshire was independent.

    You may be riding the wave, Mike.

    I do wonder how a nation of >50% independents will affect the parties’ organizational efforts. As a political scientist, I appreciate you helping to set up a great new research project for so many of my colleagues. 😉Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Mostly? It turns out that most independents are as fiercely partisan as registered party members. They just don’t like to be labeled, or like the label “independent”. It feels…superior. Above the fray.

      Polls generally deal with it by just asking who they plan to vote for, as usual. 🙂Report

  8. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    Great piece. This much honesty and insight into self is compelling.Report

  9. Avatar Damon says:

    I too had a similar “awareness” albeit a bit earlier. I never changed my affiliation, in part because I could never be bothered too, but mostly, because of the revenge I could take on the fund raising callers post Bush 2. When asked for money to defeat the “blah blah blah”, I’d simply retort. “You’ve spent money like drunken Democrats and lost an election, now you want my money to get back into power after demonstrating you had no fiscal control? Why should I trust you again? I’ll cut you a check for 10K when you start walking the walk.” That usually shut the pissers up and maybe it was communicated back to the party. (doubtful though)

    After looking at both sides and what policies they advocated and actually implemented, I concluded that whole system is a smokescreen and that the problem is the system itself.Report

    • Avatar Lyle says:

      On spending money like drunken sailors my father gave to the 2000 Bush campaign, and died in 2002. Even this year I got calls and mail for him looking for money. It appears that the political apparatus is really a roach motel in disquise, in that you can check it but cant check out (unless being Tx the republicans wanted to emulate landslide Lyndon and get the graveyard vote.Report

  10. Avatar Pinky says:

    As the years go by, I find myself increasingly convinced that the most important work a voter can do is in the primaries. If we want to reform the system, we can do it by putting better people on the general election ballot, and that happens at the primary level. I also believe in the principle of closed primaries. Without it you get things like Todd Akin getting the Republican nomination in Missouri. If we want to do away with the primary system entirely, and have numerous candidates at the general election, I’d be ok with that too.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    For a good long while, right up to a few months ago, I thought True Independents were something of a myth. They all had their secret preferences, I thought. And for a while, even around here, I was saying the Independent was a myth.

    Now I have reasons to discard that idea. There was a day when we could point to the Donkeys and the Elephants and ascribe adjectives to them: Liberals and Conservatives, Big Gummint and Small Gummint, Domestic policy and foreign policy.

    These days, the only discriminant I can see on a general basis is that Democrats rent and Republicans own. All those Blue Cities in a vast sea of Red, it’s the ancient Jeffersonian dialectic of Rural and Urban. Jefferson and Madison made sure the rural voice would never be drowned out: every state, no matter how small, gets two Senators. We used to have North and South as the big discriminant but that’s no longer true: look at the ability of Democrats to win in Virginia. But even within Virginia, it’s Urban versus Rural. Lots of Red counties. Virginia’s a large and diverse state.

    That was a longish preamble to why I was wrong about the ontology of the Independents. The parties no longer have a firm grip on their own self-definitions. In direct consequence, the voters can’t latch onto the qualia which might derive from seeming to belong to something.

    Obama was elected in 2008, making fatuous promises about bipartisanship. He didn’t deliver, for many reasons, some entirely justified. But look at Obama this time, the same vacuous and intangible sorts of feel-good promises.

    Romney’s greatest failure was his inability to stick to his guns. Granted, all politicians have to say things they don’t necessarily believe, things people want to hear, but he just changed keys too often.

    Hence the rise of the Independent. From the Bible, Revelations: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Speaking as someone who considers himself Independent: spew us out, please. Otherwise, it’s:

      “What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?”

      “Ask a glass of water.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Erm, no. You, the Independent, have decided to blow out the Party System. I would have thought the previous paras would have made that clear.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Ah gotcha, sorry, I was reading it a different way (and you are right, it didn’t seem to jibe with the previous paras, but maybe I am just used to hearing similar metaphors employed as derision – that is, the Independent as the ‘lukewarm water’, neither R nor D).Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I own. I live in a city where most people own.
      Senators are going blue, even in ND and Montana.
      Gerrymandering is the only thing keeping the House red.Report

  12. Avatar bookdragon says:

    I was an Independent for years. That changed in 2004, but only because the state of PA doesn’t allow you to vote in primaries unless your registered with a specific party. I didn’t even do it for anything state or federal level – I just wanted a say in selecting who would be on the local school board.

    So, I’m technically registered Dem, but I chose originally them because I wanted to still be able to say that I didn’t belong to an organized party. 😉

    I stay Dem and identify with them more now simply because the crazy in GOP has become so off-putting.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      *snort* My rock-ribbed Republican parents-in-law switched to Democrat to prevent Hillary from winning. They haven’t gone back, either.Report

  13. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    Politically, Independent as an “afffiliation” is somewhat self limiting. If you don’t give the political world a way to economically interface with you, they will tend to ignore you.

    The analogy I like to use is with natural selection. In order to weed out wooly thinking, evolutionary biologists employ a bottom-line assumption: if a trait isn’t heritable, natural selection doesn’t work on it. End of story.

    There is a similar principle in politics. In politics, if you don’t have an affiliation, Politics can’t work with you.

    This can be good or bad, depending on you. Maybe you don’t want politics to work on you, ads to be targeted at you, etc. But the flip side of that is that Policy won’t generally take you into much account either, except to keep you from becoming a threat to a constituency that matters to politicians.

    The risk of being “Independent” is that, by shedding affiliations, you make it very expensive for a party to figure out how to win you over. At some point, they say “screw it” and spend their resources on folks that they can count on to vote for them.Report

    • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

      As a follow up, I will say that I think the problem isn’t political affiliation, it is tribalism. Tribalism simply sucks, for individuals, in the modern political world. I define tribalism as personal identification with a particular side, and drawing personal satisfaction from tribe wins, and personal sadness when tribe loses.

      As a liberal, I am most effective when I don’t get depressed and worthless when my “side” loses. I also enjoy family gatherings more when I am not gritting my teeth while I talk to my loved ones who happen to be on the other “side.” To put it in game theoretic terms, I maximize my positive outcomes by improving both my performance and happiness when my “side” loses. I also gain more positive sums when my “side” wins, because refraining from tribal gloating means I get to keep all my friends close, even the ones I don’t agree with about policy.Report

  14. Avatar Dennis Sanders says:


    Well, I can’t say that I’m surprised which is why I asked you that question a few months ago on Facebook.

    That said, I do need to remind you that you chastised me a few years ago for considering to leave the party and for not saying anything good about it. Because of you, I decided to hang on to the GOP though somewhat tenuously. You told me back then that the Republican Party wasn’t made up of just the crazies. Maybe now you can understand the frustration I’ve been dealing with for years.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      I’m not abandoning the GOP as much as I’m abandoning partisan politics. It’s less about a disfunctional party and more about getting tired of viewing politics as a team sport.Report

  15. Avatar Dennis Sanders says:


    But I think a lot of the disenchantment does have to do with a dysfunctional party and not simply the partisan bickering or else you and I would be a lot happier about the GOP. I don’t think the party necessarily has to become the more liberal party it was in the 50s and 60s, but it does need to modernize and it does need to find ways to speak to people with my skin color. I don’t know if a Daniels or a Huntsman would have made a difference here. Huntsman could never really communicate why he was running and seemed to interested to show the media he wasn’t crazy. Daniels might have had a chance, but I think in both cases they would have to deal with a party that had outdated ideas that would be hard to shake.

    I will probably still remain as tenuously to the GOP for now, though I feel more comfortable calling myself a libertarian. I’ve been around Independents for a while to realize that very few folks are truly independent, but are closet partisans. It will be interesting to see where you end up.

    Sorry for the harshness of the last comment.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    No worries Dennis.Report